Friday 30 December 2016

Telcon - and atoms for peace

The following article appeared in the Telcon Magazine for Spring 1958

ZETA and Telcon Magnetic Cores Ltd

IT was a dull, grey morning in February, 1955 when Telmag first become involved in one of the most daring experiments ever attempted by British nuclear scientists. The telephone rang and a voice enquired casually whether we could supply cores of a size which was about ten times larger than anything we had previously produced, and which weighed about one hundred times more than our normal "large" cores.

We asked for twenty-four hours to consider the matter and gave an affirmative answer the following morning. Subsequently, a number of meetings were held in an atmosphere of great conspiracy and mystery and, finally, to our great delight we were told to make a sample for test purposes. The sample was not really very successful but we had learnt quite a lot and the authorities, with great courage, and no doubt some misgivings, decided to proceed with the experiment.

A period of considerable activity followed and thanks to a really good team effort by the engineers, production and planning departments and the electrical laboratory, the last component in the series was finally despatched in August 1956 just two weeks ahead of our original delivery schedule

A general view of Zeta.
The two banks of Telemag cores are clearly shown.
The outer banks round the cores carry angle iron
stiffeners welded to the bands which also serve the
purpose of providing clamping points for securing
Paxolin tubes for the transformer windings.
These windings carry a current of  300,000 amps
Then came a long silence and we wondered whether the great experiment had failed - perhaps atomising its originators in retribution for their temerity - but, at last, on Wednesday October 16th 1958 the Daily Express produced a streaming headline – ‘ The bomb is tamed for peace’ cried Mr Chapman Pincher and ‘limitless power can be derived from heavy hydrogen produced from sea water’.  No official statement was issued by the authorities, however, although various knowledgeable people, when questioned, were observed to smile mysteriously and someone went so far as to admit ‘there seems to be a chance that it might work’.  The full significance of this experiment and the outstanding success of the Harwell scientists were of course finally made known on January 24th 1958 and we now take pleasure in offering our respectful congratulations to all concerned. 

Imaginative thinking coupled with tremendous drive and enthusiasm, were undoubtedly the two vital ingredients which enabled the Harwell team to carry this exercise through to a successful conclusion.

Telemag feel very honoured in having had the chance to play a small part in this remarkable experiment and when a letter arrived from the Deputy Director of the Establishment himself expressing satisfaction with our work we really felt that our efforts had been worthwhile.

Every time that the phone rings now, we answer in the hope that somebody is going to ask us for some cores with dimensions in furlongs.

the two pictures shown above are taken from the relevant Telcon Magazine. There is no attribution on either .  If eiother are someone's copywrite, apologies, and we will remove it as soon as it is brought to our attention.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

New news


The December issue of Newcomen Links features a report by Richard Buchanan on the seminar held in September at the Royal Institution on 150 years of Transatlantic Telecommunications

Clearly Greenwich and Enderby Wharf features largely in this - Richard is a prominent member of the Enderby Group (and much else) and the inaugural paper was given by Enderby Group's Stewart Ash.  We also understand that the Group contributed a great deal to the planning of the seminar, which was set up by the Newcomen Society's Julia Elton.

Trying to unpick the Greenwich bits from this long and details paper is bit daunting. Throughout the paper work done in Greenwich at Enderbys features again and again.   The best thing people can do is read it - or ask Richard to come and speak to them, and their society, about it.

A problem is that Newcomen Links is a members-only newsletter.  Its impressive, and full of information but you have to join the Newcomen Society to get it.  The web site is www.newcomen,com. They are based in the Science Museum.



We have been sent some information about the Dudgeon ship building family in Deptford and Greenwich. In the 1860s at the far end of the Peninsula a gun manufacturing factory had been set up by Alexander Blakely (see  It appears that when that closed down - which it did, pretty quickly - the Dudgeon family tried to lease the site from Morden College and take over the failing business.  They also looked at the Bessemer site next door.

Blakely is of great interest to historians of heavy ordnance - an Irishman, he developed a rifling process and fell out with William Armstrong -  the historians working on the Dudgeon business would be interested in any other links.



Enderby Group have noted the death of Lord Pender - the descendant of Sir John Pender, a self made man, who was a major force in the setting of the early telecommunications industry,   The Enderby Group has been lobbying for the area around Enderby House to be re-named 'Pender Plaza' and we understand a biography of Sir John may be on the way.  Meanwhile a new Lord Pender has inherited his great-great grandfather's title and, hopefully, will continue the family tradition of interest and patronage of the heritage of this important industry



Along with the Blackheath Society we should all like to congratulate Blackheath historian, Neil Rhind, on his 80th birthday.  We are aware of a big birthday party very soon.  The latest newsletter has a big article about Neil and his career. He has, of course, come and given papers at Greenwich Industrial History Society, on several occasions - most notably, maybe, one about Blackheath based building contractor, William Webster. But there have been many others, all of them worthwhile - and given in Neil's inimitable style.

The Society are also angrily noting changes to the, listed, Blackheath post office, in its unannounced transformation into a chain newsagents shop.  Original doors and other features have vanished. 



The group has written to ask us to protest about demolitions planned along the Hackney Cut (ok this is the other side of the river, in Hackney, but it is a very interesting and important site not too far away, (if you ignore the river)).  There are plans to put more bridges over the cut - and into wonderful Victoria Park . The group asks for protests against the demolition of the existing pedestrian bridge and for bus routes to go down White Post Lane.

They also say that planning applications to alter some of the Fish Island industrial buildings - Algha Works and Swan Wharf - have been refused/withdrawn.

A later posting from the group is about their efforts to get East End Gasholders preserved. They have failed to save either the  No.2, holder which you can see just the other side of the Blackwall tunnel or the stunning and dramatically sited holder at Bethnal Green.  They are hoping that the small holder at Poplar can be made a feature of a planned sports area. They have published material about all these holders - happy to forward info. (they don't have a web site, this is all in emails and links here are not really possible).  They also have a petition available - again only on an email.



The new Lewisham History Journal (No 24 2016) is full of articles about Greenwich.

First off is by Charlton resident the Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury (aka William Newton-Norton) who gives his extensive memories of growing up, a local history enthusiast in Lewisham and Greenwich. He describes the libraries, the talks and the people, and its all good stuff. It includes a photograph of the author, aged 13, being consulted by Sir John Betjeman on the subject of the old Lewisham Town Hall (it was demolished regardless). 

Second, is a long and detailed article on the Green Man Inn which was - er - at the top of Blackheath Hill in - er - Greenwich.  The Inn actually survived into the 1970s and I remember myself a music hall evening there with a singer who blouse always fell off at the end of her act.  This was however, apparently, a later 'gin palace' and it is its older manifestation in which the author, Nancy Wilson, is interested. The Green Man - at the top of Blackheath Hill - was the site of an inn, as a stopping place on the Dover Road, for many centuries. It was preceded by the Bowling Green Tavern.  The article mainly describes 19th century entertainments and events at the inn which was however demolished in 1868.  There is also some emphasis on its role - like many town centre inns of the day - as a place where civic and adminstrative functions, inquests and so on, were held. For instance it is where where Greenwich Peninsula Wallscott Board held its meetings over the centuries, although they don't get a mention here.  This is a long and detailed article - and clealry there is a lot more to be said about this important Greenwich and Dover Road landmark. Sadly the site is now a block of flats.

Forthcoming Lewisham meetings  (at Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, 7.45)

27th January  Royal Fans, History and Owners, Mary Kitson
24th February Above your head, below your feet. Street furniture. Sue Hayton.
31st March.  AGM  Modern Nature - living on the edge. Creekside Eco Centre. Nick Bertrand
28th April.  The Lieutenancy - Col. Jane Davis
26th May   The Crofton Park Story - Carol Harris
30th June    Gaseous Goings On. - by - er - me (I intend to say a lot about Greenwich)
28th July  Sydenham Hill.  Ian MacInnes
29th September - Abraham Colfe,   Julian Watson
27th October - The Lenox  Julian Kingston
24th November - Penguins, not Polar Bears.  Sandra Margolies
8th December - Members evening.



Enderby Group and GIHS member Richard Buchanan gave an (archaeological - one of his other hats) talk about the Bronze Age barrow on Shooters Hill on BBC London local news. Sadly this doesn't seem to be on IPlayer - but anyone who has a copy I am sure lots of others of us would like to hear what Richard had to say



The December 2016 edition of Sub Brit's Magazine is packed with interesting articles of all sorts (they have a world wide remit) - so, what do they say about Greenwich??

There is just one half page - but very interesting. This is about the days when the Plumstead Bus Garage was on the corner of Kings Highway and Wickham Lane.  Underneath it was, of course, one of the many Plumstead chalk mines - and I guess double decker buses are quite heavy!!  The article is about regular descents into the mine by London Transport's engineers to check its stability. 



This excellent newsletter is also an email only production. So:

- PLA have purchased Peruvian Wharf, just across the river in Newham. They intend to turn it into a proper river wharf and terminal to service the London building industry. They have had a long fight to save its protected status.

- they have produced a new recreational users guide to the Thames. available from

- MBNA Thames Clippers have been named Ferry Operator of the year for the second year running. This follows the announcement that they have commissioned two new vessels - 170 passenger capacity 



14th March - they have a talk on London Lighthouses, particularly the one at Blackwall (which you can see from Charlton!).  Clore Learning Centre, Museum of London. 6.30

The Eltham Society Newsletter is listed for their Journal Prize. (we don't get to see this at GIHS could someone send it or tell us where to get it). Congratulations to Eltham anyway
(Generally the LAMAS prize is for paper productions only - someone needs to ask them why they ignore electronic media)

LAMAS list out details of lots of local history societies and their meetings. Many of which are very interesting - and it provides a service by giving information about meetings you wouldn't otherwise hear about.  At the moment Greenwich doesn't feature in this - I know GIHS has been removed (and I know why - its about the wrong sort of subscription) but Greenwich Historial Association also doesn't feature anymore, or come to that Woolwich Antiquarians.  Can someone tell them that historical research in the borough continues apace.



Woolwich Labour Party was the first organised Labour Party - and it opened its headquarters in Woolwich New Road some thirteen or so years before the national Party got itself together.  The building remained as the HQ until they moved over to Eltham (and I need the date of that move - please, Eltham Labour Party).  In the meantime it was also the Transport and General Workers office and also The Pioneer Bookshop.  For many years it housed the Pioneer Press,   Woolwich Antiquarians have been getting plaques put up all over the place in Woolwich.  I (Mary) have been pursuing the issue of a plaque on the Woolwich New Road building and am anxious to get more information.

Woolwich Antiquarians have been trying to get plaques put up to all sorts of people over the past few years - but that it tiny tiny compared to the amount which could/should go up. The outskirts of Woolwich and Charlton were stuffed full of important scientists and engineers as well as all the military.  We should stop ignoring all this and get our past recongised a bit more. Lets start - Victoria Way, for instance - Sir John Anderson at one end, Vivien Majendie half way up - and lots of others in between

I hope not only to get a plaque in Woolwich New Road and some sort of commemoration sorted out, but to get something published - not only locally but in the Labour Heritage publications and other such.

Talking of which ...............


The current newsletter draws attention to the 1917 foundation of the Co-op Party.  Now Greenwich and Woolwich have a large and active Co-op Party - one of the largest in the country, we understand. And they are keen to have some sort of commemoration event.  More on that to come.  The situation is a bit more complicated in Greenwich and Woolwich because Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society on the whole didn't have any truck with the Co-op Party but had their own Political Purposes Committee - so the Greenwich Party was only dates from when RACS was sold off to that lot in Manchester.

There is also a lot of stuff being put out about the early Co-op movement and something called the 'Rochdale Pioneers' - this is all nonsense and the whole of South London should be aware that the earliest consumer co-ops were in Woolwich, getting on for a century earlier.   More of that in the 

(and I hope they don't dare say that Woolwich in the 1750s was any sort of 'Metropolitan elite')



We have been contacted by campaigners looking to research the presbytery of our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Charlton Road. There is a blue plaque on the building to Peter Barlow.  This was the older Barlow, an engineer with a distinguished career at the Arsenal.

Hopefully we can give some details about Barlow and his work - I understand there is a local expert researcher - please get in touch. 

Meanwhile the campaigners would be grateful for any information



This has been a very long newsletter and several items have been left over:

- Thames path closures

- real progress by the Enderby Group

and much more

sorry. back soon

Peace and love 


Wednesday 7 December 2016

General news and notes

Stuff sent to us in the past week

email to us


The current Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society's Newsletter has a couple of items about Greenwich.

One is about the closure of Firepower - "The Royal Artillery Experience' at Woolwich Royal Arsenal closed in July 2016 after struggling for years to meet its target of 200,000 visitors per years".  They explain that the collection will go to the Science Museum Store in Wiltshire and not be available to the public.

- a personal comment is that we ought to find out what has happened to their valuable archive which for many years was open(ish) to the public at the RMA building in Academy Road.  And (even more personal) to hope that this exhibition about shooting people is replaced by something that reflects the academic, research and manufacturing base in the Arsenal  - we have here somewhere which was a world centre of excellence for technological development - and are we putting it on display?? Apparently not!  Mary (sorry about that)

The GLIAS Newsletter also reports on a planning application from Crossness Engines for a narrow gauge railway and modification to an existing building as a depot.  This will be a single 18" gauge track with passing loops and a station at each end. This will take people from the car park to the pumping station.  They hope to use the locomotives under restoration on this.

Perhaps someone from Crossness could tell us more about the progress of this - presumably the planning application was to Bexley Council. Can we know more??

GLIAS also lists the following Greenwich sites as being featured in the London Archaeologists Fieldwork Roundup for 2015
(these are sites professional archaeologists have worked on  - and PLEASE professional archaeologists - if you ever read this - this blog is always happy to put a note about your work, or whatever you want - but you need to tell us.  It would be nice if you did)

Enderby Wharf - location of gunpowder works and other features
Eltham Church of England Primary School - where they recorded a Second World War air raid shelter
Greenwich Market - where they found the remains of brick walls which may have been part of Joseph Kaye's work of 1830
Royal Arsenal Riverside - found to clay pipe kilns and a bread oven

GLIAS future events include

18th January - Conkers, Cordite & the Birth of Modern Biotechnology. Prof. Martin Adams
15th February - The Spitalfields Silk Industry. Sue Jackson
15th March - Crossrail Archaeological Roundup.  Jay Carver and Andy Shelley
19th April  - The Royal Arsenal, Then and now. Ian Bull
17th May - AGM - The New River. Andrew Smith

all at 6.30 in The Gallery, 75 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6EL


We have been sent some material from

This includes something about 'Placemaking and Heritage Research'  which says "This year, research for Heritage Counts focused on placemaking and heritage. To investigate this topic, research was conducted into the use of heritage in place branding by Business Improvement Districts. The findings of this project will appeal to all organisations involved with place branding and with an interest in how heritage could be incorporated to enhance places".  

The posting includes a link to a workbook giving the heritage profile of every local authority - (sorry - tried to get through to the Greenwich section but it complained about the version of Excel and refused to download - better luck if someone else can do it!)
There is also a link to a lot of research on the economic advantages of heritage sites - again please download and let us know what you think.


Another old pub about to go

We have had an email about the imminent demise of "the wonderful Victorian PH, "The Thames"."  This is the Rose and Crown Pub on the corner of Thames Street and Norway Street.  This is a proposal from a developer despite, we are informed that "It is the last remaining Victoria building in that part of Greenwich,  and is actually in good condition, has been lived in recently..  and ... has existing permission to be converted into a  gastropub and flats".  The email also says "it's about time we started to hold on to our heritage".

Happy to pass any info on


We have a long email from the East London Waterways Group - and its a pity they don't have a web site we could refer you to because much of what they send it very interesting. 
They headline this as 'Help Stop Fake Heritage at the former London Chest Hospital'.  This again is how developers of this important site want to turn some perfectly decent, and listed, buildings into looking like something they never were to start with.    The email also contains information about some of the industrial buildings at Hackney Wick, which are now being eyed up by developers.  Most of these were in perfectly sustainable office, industrial and studio use until the Olympics came along next door. Many of the ones now being got at were part of the Dalton peanut factory.

Happy to forward their email - but - even better - get on their mailing list


and another old pub on the way out

This is the pub which has over recent years been 'The Book Place' and was held up by scaffolding for a very long time. This was The Beehive and is another 19th building rapidly being surrounded by new builds.  Do we really think tourists are going to come to Greenwich to see lots of new ten storey blocks of flats??

Happy to pass on contacts if people email



We currently have a lot of stuff to go on this blog - and there is now a queue (but don't let that stop you sending more)

We hope in the next few days to cover

Our Lady of Grace Presbytery and engineer Peter Barlow (see the blue plaque)

Greenwich Power Station - and plans for its extension

Woolwich Labour Party's first offices - the first and original Labour Party ever


Friday 2 December 2016

Atlas and Derrick

A couple of weeks ago Greenwich Industrial History was contacted by campaigners at Atlas and Derrick Gardens.

This small estate is now owned by Greenwich Council - and is in one of the more obscure bits of the borough.  It is down Anchor and Hope Lane, down among all the industrial sites and opposite the new Sainsbury's depot.   Difficult to find and tucked away.  Not for much longer!   There are plans by Rockwell Developers to surround it with 28 storey blocks of flats as Charlton sites go for 'redevelopment'.

(and incidentally swallowing up many other interesting sites, which may include the old Glenton railway - which still has some of its rails!)

Atlas and Derrick was built by Cory's around 1908.  Cory Environmental are still just along the river with their tug depot and dry dock just along the riverside path.  That small drab workplace - which looks after all the tugs which transport the rubbish barges - is a small part of a huge modern multi national.  Just down at Erith Cory have a vast rubbish destructor and much more.  The firm is said to have been set up by William Cory in the early 19th century and was initally a haulage and lighterage business.

I remain confused however by Cory and its background. In South Wales Cory Brothers operated a net work of mines and coal haulage.  There is even still a Cory Brass Band.  Are they the same people - or is it just a coincidence that there were two big companies in the coal trade in the 19th century set up by people with this fairly unusual name.  Other Corys pop up in directories and so on all the time - for example I found a Cory dye works in Limehouse in the 1820s.

What is however well known - and well illustrated is Atlas (hence Atlas and Derrick Gardens). There were three successive Atlases and they were moored in the river off Charlton. The idea was to save river space and wharfage time.  The collier ships - of which there would have been 100s coming into the Thames from the North east coal staithes - moored up against Atlas and her derricks would have been used to remove the coal and transfer it into barges. And off the barges would go to deliver it to wherever it was to be used

Thursday 1 December 2016

The steps at Enderbys - and the whole issue of the riverside path

The riverside path along by Lovells and Enderbys is apparently closed - more of that below.  

First of all - the steps at Enderbys.  There are two jetties at Enderby Wharf and between them are some steps going down into the river.  These steps were a sort of ferry terminal where a row boat or a launch met people who wanted to go out to a cable ship moored out in the river.   They covered over a medieval sluice - Bendish Sluice.  The 500 year old sluice - there four years ago - has now vanished, presumably removed in the building work.  But the steps, hopefully, are still there.

Some twelve or so years ago the environmental charity, Groundwork, spent a lot of public money doing up all sorts of improvements to the riverside path on this stretch.  There were trees, and flowers, and seats and artworks. They got the companies with factories along the river to pay for it and sign maintenance agreements,  Then the companies sold up and went and the developers moved in.  All that planting and seats were trashed.

However - the Enderby jetties are still owned by Alcatel (or whatever their new name is) and artifacts remain on the big jetty - and - and - the art work on the steps.

Here's what Carol Kenna of Greenwich Mural Workshop who was responsible for the installation says about it:-

The steps were installed part of works conducted along the East Greenwich Waterfront identified within the Groundwork ‘Vital Centre and Green Links” initiative.The programme was delivered by a team comprising Groundwork Thames Gateway London South, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Alcatel, Amylum UK Ltd, The Environment Agency and  Thames 21, advised by Deptford Discovery Team and Greenwich Mural Workshop.The project cost £20,000 for the steps and Alcatel agreed to clean them periodically to remove algae. This was part of £8,175,000 awarded to Groundwork for the Vital Centres and Green Links programme.
The works were financed through the SRB programme and contributions from Alcatel and Amylum.
Enderby Steps were an initiative by Greenwich Mural Workshop sculpted by sculptor Richard Lawrence. The intention was to refurbish the historical steps that had lead to the landing stage that enabled shipmen to land from the large ships moored off shore waiting to be loaded with cables.
The sub structure of the steps were found to be sound and new steps, made from Opepe wood fixed to concrete beams fixed with stainless steel rod. There are 17 steps in all, plus a wooden floor attached to a concrete raft. Opepe wood is a very durable Marine Hardwood, commonly used for sea defences.
Following research into the history of Alcatel and the industries of Greenwich Peninsula designs were produced and carved into the steps and decking to illustrate the history of the area and its importance in the development of telecommunications in Greenwich. The steps were carved and installed in 2001. Alcatel, Dr. Mary Mills and local people all contributed towards the research
The steps were conceived as one of a number of works in the area including the developing Enderby Wharf as a public open space illustrating the history of Alcatel including the placement of a cable repeater, retention of the cable winding machinery and explanation boards.

So what has happened?  Problem is we don't know.  A couple of weeks ago Enderby Group picked up that there was a plan for a (very necessary) storm drain to outfall through the old medieval sluice. - and there were other things agreed, for instance a reed bed.   They asked if the contractors were aware of the art work - and have lobbied and rung and tried to contact anyone with any influence.  We will let you know when we find out.
The other problem is that we can't get down the path to look and see what is going on.  The path was closed by the Environment Agency at the request of one of the developers.  The Council have, apparently, tried to get them to agree to a shorter diversion - but this has fallen on deaf ears.    The next problem - as raised at a recent EGRA meeting - is that once the current problem is sorted, the next developer along can raise something else with the Environment Agency and get the next bit closed - and the next - and the next --

They can't shut it for ever - it is a right of way, ratified in a Kent Assize judgement of 1875 and reinforced by a judgement of 1999 when the Council took a developer, further down, to Court.

But - and this is a big but - what will be revealed when it is finally opened.  Will it be the same sterile promenade we have everywhere else.  It isn't just the art work - its the general ambience and the vitally important historic framework.  

A few more things - and then the obligatory quote from Ian Nairn.

One is that any decisions about the path have to go in front of the Council who can comment on them - we need to know that they are properly briefed

Two is that all these big planning applications to the Council are followed by a blizzard of small ones - 'reserved matters'  they are 99% boring nit picking details which for various, usually good, reasons, were not in the main application. Decisions on drains and path ways et al will be buried in that somewhere. Look at them - read through the paint colours and site safety regulations and the size of the wheel washers - and find the path

We need to work out if we are serious or not about visitors. What do we want from this area which is so historically important. Do we really want to trash it??

OK - so here's Ian Nairn, TV architectural commentator and major stirrer  - he wrote this in 1966

This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thames- side walk in London. It beats all of the embankments and water- gardens hollow. Best in this direction, because then the walk has a climax: the domes of Greenwich Hospital beckoning round the bend of the river, and a splendidly unselfconscious free house, the Cutty Sark. The entrance certainly takes some finding: to get there, fork left facing the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel with its pretty Art Nouveau gatehouse. About two hundred yards along, on the left, a passage leads down beside the Delta Metal Co. It zigs and it zags, but it doesn't give up, and eventually comes out at the river. The start is now a sizeable belvedere, but the path soon takes on much more exciting forms: between walls, or unfenced above a slide down to the water, or wandering past timber wharves, under cranes and in one case nipping around the back of a boat yard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a continuous flirtation with the slow- flowing river, choked with working boats. The first houses come in at the Cutty Sark (Union Wharf): then there is a final exciting stretch past Greenwich Power Station and the astonishing contrast with the Trinity almshouses next door, another good riverside pub (the Yacht), and the climax of the footpath in front of Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk, but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers. The Enderby Group has been working on ideas for the area around the path and Enderby House. All will be revealed in due course.
    'They' are trying to close it. Walk it as you would a country path, till they are sick to the guts"